Austin’s Gluten-free, Dairy-free Dining Options

Many kids on the autism spectrum are on special diets. I think one reason parents put up with the insanity of the gluten-free, dairy-free diet that autism doctors recommend is because there is so little else we can really do. Without biomarkers, we don’t even know what and where autism is in the body. So, diet is one thing we can control. I have seen some improvement for my son’s symptoms on the diet and each time I try to reintroduce dairy, my son’s agitation does seem to increase, so we leave it out.

But, when you’re traveling, having access to a kitchen and a specialty grocery store is rough. Luckily, Austin has plenty of options. Here are my son’s favorite places to eat:

1) Tarka–This Indian restaurant is a cheap, good place to get Indian food. Many dishes are made without cream or wheat. The staff is very helpful and understanding of differences.

2) Zen–When my son first started on the gluten-free, dairy-free (GF/CF) diet, I didn’t know where to go and we ate at this Japanese “food fast” restaurant almost daily. They know my son at the North Austin location we frequent and are willing to turn off their sound system when we’re there. I don’t know why restaurants even play music, it’s really nice when it’s quiet. I think my son improves the ambiance of most places by having them turn their music off.

3) Central Market salad bar–These grocery stores also have restaurants inside. We go to the salad bar for its selection and it amazes people at nearby tables to see a pre-teen boy eating seaweed and spinach salad. He really likes tofu and other foods that I don’t keep in the house, so it’s a win-win.

4) Chipotle–A chain of mostly organic meats and fresh ingredient Mexican food. My son and I were watching Oprah and came across a segment on how their food was locally sourced and the meats organic, and that was important to him. He’s funny. I never know what is going to impress him, but a restaurant with organic meat seemed to catch his attention.

5) Chuy’s–An Austin institution with locations across Texas now. This is harder for GF/CF options. Ask to talk to the manager to get a list of GF/CF items. There are few things on here that are purely gluten-free, dairy-free, but my son loves the carnival-like atmosphere and I love the margaritas. He says, “When you have a margarita, you will be in paradise.” He’s pretty dramatic, but he’s right.

If you have good restaurant options that are GF/CF in Austin, write a comment. We’d like to add to our list of options.

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